PC World

This Week in Atonement

February 21, 2012

There are other recent incidents of pathetic public groveling, all duly chronicled by Dana Milbank, the columnist who inadvertently set off “Chimichanga-quiddick” last Wednesday.

In his column, Milbank joked lamely that the chimichanga was “the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos,” a reference to a filibustering speech in which Senator John McCain claimed his home state of Arizona as the birthplace of the beloved Tex-Mex menu item.

After President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina approvingly tweeted Milbank’s line, the Republican National Committee demanded an apology from, well, somebody.

Milbank shot back, “That’s nacho place. I flauta your demands. In the chimichanga wars, I will taco no prisoners—and that’s for churro.”

“The spat over the fried burrito,” he added, “gets at one of the most annoying components of our decaying political culture: false umbrage.”

Milbank credits his fellow liberals with the invention of that “component” but notes equally accurately that “conservatives have embraced it.” He calls on all sides to “put this tired gimmick to rest” and serves up six paragraphs of examples from both sides of the aisle.

America’s recently discovered deposits of faux outrage are seemingly inexhaustible, and the temptation to indulge in what Thomas Sowell calls “moral preening” is apparently almost impossible to resist. If anyone out there has some a Grand Unified Theory of 21st Century Contrition, tracing the origin of this latter-day (and decidedly un-American) predilection, do tell.

Sitting here wracking my brain, I remembered seeing a copy of the official apology for Kent State on the US edition of the Antiques Roadshow. I didn’t think anybody apologized for anything in the 1970s, and indeed, the brief document doesn’t absolve the protesters of partial responsibility.

With my mind on the 1970, I think I figured it out:

My husband is a World War II buff, so Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers run in heavy rotation around here. For a change of pace, we watched Patton (1970) a while back. I’d seen it before, but this time I couldn’t get over the movie’s fixation on the general’s slapping of a shell-shocked soldier. What I’d remembered as a minor incident came up numerous times, leading to Patton’s vaguely surreal apology scene.

I couldn’t believe that in the 1940s, during a war, Patton’s stupid gesture really preoccupied Allied Force Headquarters. Can we really trace the origins of Big Sorry back to Eisenhower?

My husband explained that in real life, outrage over the slap was “a media thing, just like today.” Had newspapers ignored it, Patton’s superiors would have, too.

Cynical as I am about journalists’ motives, I still don’t quite understand why the media glommed onto the incident. I thought those were the good old days when most reporters considered themselves (or at least pretended to be, in public) patriotic liberals in the classical sense.

And today, while Big Sorry is indeed “a media thing,” the real culprits are the nation’s parasitical race hustlers, professional feminists, Official Jews, and petulant gays: groups who didn’t exist before the 1960s and whose “shocked and appalled” press releases and blackmailing blog posts now provide editors and producers an easy three minutes or 500 words to help fill the 24/7 news cycle.

Having mocked religious notions of guilt and contrition for at least a century, modern man finds he can’t quite shake the impulse to shame others and grovel himself, inventing increasingly bizarre excuses to do so. Where confession was one a weekly rite and atonement an annual one, today’s secular humanist insists upon daily, even hourly, ritual chest-beating and garment-rending. And he calls it liberation.

 

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